By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

One year ago this month, China agriculture officials reported the first African swine fever (ASF) outbreak in Asia in Shenyang City, Liaoning Province. About a month later, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held an emergency meeting and one officials said, “Unfortunately, what we’re seeing so far is just the tip of the iceberg.”


A true statement indeed!

Today, FAO reported almost 5 million pigs in Asia have now died or been culled because of the spread of ASF. This includes 3,700,000 pigs in Vietnam and more than 1,160,000 pigs in China.

ASF is present in six Asian countries: Cambodia, China, DPR Korea, Lao PDR, Mongolia and Viet Nam. The latest data provided by FAO indicates that current losses represent more than 10 percent of the total pig population in each of China, Viet Nam and Mongolia.

In Viet Nam, the pork industry makes up almost 10% of the country’s agriculture sector and pork meat accounts for almost three quarters of meat consumed. The country has, to date, culled approximately three million pigs in an effort to curb the spread of the disease, raising concerns that ASF could contribute to an increase in food insecurity in already-challenged communities.

In China, there are at least 26 million pig farming producers, and about 50 percent of total pork production is by small-scale farmers.

“Some farmers have lost their entire pig herd to the disease and it may take badly-affected countries years to recover from the socio-economic effects of the outbreak,” FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Juan Lubroth said.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE):

  • African swine fever (ASF) is a severe viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs;
  • It is responsible for serious production and economic losses;
  • This transboundary animal disease (TAD) can be spread by live or dead pigs, domestic or wild, and pork products;
    furthermore, transmission can also occur via contaminated feed and fomites (non-living objects) such as shoes, clothes, vehicles, knives, equipment etc., due to the high environmental resistance of ASF virus.
  • There is no approved vaccine against ASF (unlike classical swine fever (‘Hog Cholera’) which is caused by a different virus)
  • Historically, outbreaks have been reported in Africa and parts of Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. More recently (since 2007) the disease has been reported in multiple countries across Africa, Asia and Europe, in both domestic and wild pigs.